Who’s the best manager of all time? Some would say Joe McCarthy. I know Eric and I would. Others might argue for John McGraw, which wouldn’t be a ridiculous call. And still others would mistakenly tab Connie Mack for the honor if they look at nothing other than wins. A tougher question, a much tougher one, is identifying the 18th best manager ever. That’s something we believe we’ve done today, sort of.
Dick Williams will be enshrined in the Hall of Miller and Eric today, our 18th such manager to be honored. We’re not sure he’s exactly the 18th best manager ever, but he’s somewhere around there. And we feel confident he’s part of the top-22. One guy, Hughie Jennings, not part of the elite of the elite will receive an obituary today. It’s the second time in our project that Jennings gets a late obit. Increase the size of the player wing and the manager wing by 25% each, and there’s a great chance Jennings would have two plaques. Alas, he has none.
So as we do every week, let’s take a look at where we stand with a couple of charts.
Durocher makes eighteen managers in the Hall of Miller and Eric.
Walter Alston Tony La Russa Frank Selee Sparky Anderson Al Lopez Billy Southworth Fred Clarke Connie Mack Casey Stengel Bobby Cox Joe McCarthy Joe Torre Leo Durocher John McGraw Earl Weaver Miller Huggins Bill McKechnie Dick Williams
And there are now a mere eleven men we’ll consider for the remaining four spots.
G> WS Flags Yrs From W L % .500 Won Won Teams =================================================================================== Cap Anson 21 1875-1898 1295 947 .578 348 0 5 3 Frank Chance 11 1905-1923 946 648 .593 298 2 4 3 Clark Griffith 20 1901-1920 1491 1367 .522 124 0 1 4 Ned Hanlon 19 1889-1907 1313 1164 .530 149 0 5 5 Whitey Herzog 18 1973-1990 1281 1125 .532 156 1 3 4 Ralph Houk 20 1961-1984 1619 1531 .514 88 2 3 3 Tommy Lasorda 21 1976-1996 1599 1439 .526 160 2 4 1 Billy Martin 16 1969-1988 1253 1013 .553 240 1 2 5 Danny Murtaugh 15 1957-1976 1115 950 .540 165 2 2 1 Lou Piniella 23 1986-2010 1835 1713 .517 122 1 1 5 Harry Wright 23 1871-1893 1225 885 .581 340 0 6 4
Hall of Miller and Eric
Seemingly by their nature, managers are short-term solutions. At least the lesser managers are. Only the great of the great tend to stay in one place for a while. But Dick Williams remains one of the great of the great even though he couldn’t hold a job for long. In 21 years, he managed six teams. He made it to three years for each one but didn’t get past five for any. On the other hand, he took three of them to the World Series, and won a total of 1571 games at a .520 rate. His first managerial gig was with the Impossible Dream Red Sox of 1967. He took a team that had finished sixth or worse in each of the previous seven seasons to within one game of the title. Two years later, his personality got him booted out of Boston. After a year coaching 3B in Montreal, he was hired to manage an emerging dynasty in Oakland. In 1971 he won 101 games but got swept in the playoffs. The next two seasons the A’s won the World Series. Actually, they won the next three, but Williams and his personality were gone before he could enjoy a third glass of champagne. His next job, in California, didn’t bring with it a lot of talent, and Williams was off to Montreal after parts of three years. North of the border, they had never finished better than fourth in their history. Two seasons of the same preceded three consecutive top-two finishes. Another team, another turn-around in San Diego. Like the Expos, the Padres had never finished better than fourth, a height they reached only twice in their first thirteen years. In four years in San Diego, the Padres never finished lower than fourth, and they got all the way to the 1984 World Series. One last team, and another turn-around for Williams in Seattle. In their first ten years, the Mariners finished fourth once, fifth once, and sixth or seventh every other year. With Dick Williams at the helm throughout 1987, Seattle finished fourth and posted the best record in franchise history. He got so much out of young players because he rode them hard. As they gained more experience, they wouldn’t put up with his behavior, so he wore out his welcome everywhere he went. Still, you can’t argue with his success.
When you begin your career with three consecutive pennants, you probably have nowhere to go but down. And that’s exactly what happened to Hughie Jennings. Losing the World Series to the Cubs, Cubs, and Pirates is hard enough. Harder though, is only once coming close to returning to the Fall Classic. He won at a fine rate over the course of his career, .543. And he managed his squads to 1184 wins with the Tigers and a smattering of time with the Giants. Overall, he was good, not great, working decently with hitters and far less well with pitchers. That’s why he receives his manager obit.
We have only four more managers to elect. After next week, we’ll be down to three. See you then.